(Neb)-County Commissioners Take Whiteclay Licenses Under Advisement Listen
RUSHVILLE - The Sheridan County Commissioners are very pleased with yesterday's public hearings in Rushville on the liquor licenses held by the four stores in Whiteclay that sell beer. The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission last fall ordered that instead of simple renewals, the Arrowhead Inn, State Line Liquor, D&S Pioneer Service, and Jumping Eagle Inn would have to reapply for their liquor licenses.
Commissioner James Krotz says that despite sub-zero temperatures much of the day, attendance at each of the four hearings ranged between 40 for the first at 11:00 and about 60 for the last at 3:00. A total of different people testified, almost evenly split with 19 asking that the licenses be denied and 16 supporting the 4 stores.
About 2/3rs of them spoke at only one hearing, but 4 opponents testified at each one and 5 people spoke at 3 sessions. Not only was Krotz pleased with the numbers, he was pleased with the testimony offered and with the general tone of the day with tempers rising only a few times.
The county commissioners did not act on the licenses yesterday and instead just took the issue under advisement. Krotz says he and his two colleagues, Jack Andersen and newly sworn-in Loren Paul, will meet again next week to try to reach a consensus.
The commissioners' decision will simply be a recommendation to the Liquor Commission, which has the final say on all liquor licenses but generally gives strong weight to recommendations from the affected local governing bodies.
The four Whiteclay stores sold the equivalent of 3.5-million cans of beer last year, nearly all to residents of the adjacent and officially dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and licenses opponents yesterday generally focused their testimony on the health and other alcohol-related problems being caused on the reservation by beer sold in Whiteclay.
Longtime educator and former Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer was among several opponents who urged the commissioners to respect the tribe's alcohol ban by halting beer sales in Whiteclay.
Supporters generally said that the real problem was addiction and that closing the stores would literally push alcohol buyers "down the road" to stores in Rushville, increasing the danger of drunk drivers on 2-lane Highway 87.
Gordon City ManagerJacob Sheridan presented a letter from his council opposing denial of the licenses because it wouldn't solve the problem of addiction, and one woman who submitted a petition from 300 current or former county residents in support of the beer stores.
There was more focus than in the past on a lack law enforcement in Whiteclay, the issue that led the Liquor Commission to order the license holders to reapply rather than simply go through a renewal process...a move taken after County Commissioner Jack Andersen told a legislative committee the county lacked the resources to provide adequate law enforcement in Whiteclay.
Andersen, in response to frequent questions yesterday, explained that he misspoke and meant to say Sheridan County taxpayers were footing an unfair share of the costs to police Whiteclay and that the state should become more involved in policing and funding.
County Attorney Jamian Simmons disputed claims by opponents that the county takes in only $3,500 but spends 35% of its law enforcement budget on Whiteclay. Simmons said she and Sheriff Terry Robbins are still trying to determine exactly how much county time and resources are spent in Whiteclay, but that 35% is an oversimplified number from 2008.
She said the figure came from a review of the county jail population, which at that time was about 35% residents of the reservation but didn't show the type or location of the crimes that landed them in jail. Simmons says the latest figures are that Whiteclay accounts for about 20% of arrests in Sheridan County and 14-to-16% of its 911 calls.
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